What project stars Norman Reedus, Léa Seydoux and Mads Mikkelsen? Although it sounds like a great movie, it was actually the 2019 video game, Death Stranding, which featured motion capture and voice acting performances from these actors. Fast forward to 2021, and the convergence of Hollywood and the booming video game industry is at an all-time high.
A driving force in this process is The Game Awards, an Oscar-like awards show that celebrates artistry in the field. The awards show takes place in December each year and showcases game awards, musical performances and game reveals. Award categories include Best Narrative, Best Score and Music, as well as Best Performance, a term that encapsulates actors’ voice acting and motion capture work.
Games have long been viewed as a leisurely pastime, but with events like The Game Awards, people have begun to recognize them as an art form on the same level as films and other media. Celebrity appearances in games are a magnet for new audiences to recognize the medium, a trend that has become much more prevalent in recent games. Access to better technology also allows games to be flawlessly digitally-recreated, and developers have more tools than ever to express their creative vision.
The similarities between The Game Awards and the Oscars are striking, and this year’s Game Awards presentation even featured Hollywood celebrities such as Tom Holland, Brie Larson and Christopher Nolan. Recruiting mainstream celebrities as presenters was a huge success, bringing in a new high of 83 million streams, peaking at 8.3 million concurrent viewers for the awards show.
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Comparatively, last year’s Oscars brought in about 23.6 million viewers. The Game Awards’ numbers have been rising with each year’s showcase, signaling that they could become part of the mainstage in the coming years. Comparing the Oscars to The Game Awards isn’t a measure of how the film industry is lacking; rather, it shows the trend of more artistically focused games making their way into the mainstream.
The Game Awards’ wide range of categories, from Best Narrative to Best Art Direction, highlight and celebrate the artists, musicians, actors and designers who work to create games. Not only does it recognize their work, but it also legitimizes games as an art form and gives them a greater standing from a cultural context.
Bigger games such as Fortnite and League of Legends have turned heads in mainstream media before, but many games don’t see the same kind of coverage as these blockbusters. With the growth of The Game Awards, more of these games are finding a new audience — one that will grow rapidly in the coming years.
Recent video games have also been starring more Hollywood actors. This year’s Cyberpunk 2077 features Keanu Reeves as one of its most prominent characters. Far Cry 6, releasing in 2021, stars Giancarlo Esposito, whom you may have seen as Gus Fring in Breaking Bad or more recently in The Mandalorian playing Moff Gideon, as its main villain.
Bringing in talent from Hollywood’s empire emphasizes the games’ legitimacy as an art form. Newer titles pursue greater ambition, both from a design perspective and a storytelling perspective, with some even hiring television writers to help create moving stories.
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More powerful hardware, combined with new development tools, has given developers more freedom than ever to create worlds and experiences for their audience. Newer hardware has allowed developers to incorporate ray tracing into games, allowing for much more realistic lighting in their projects. Games such as The Last of Us Part II display fluid, life-like animations by using a technique called motion matching, which uses AI to create animations based on actors’ motion capture performances. These studios also now use dozens of cameras to fully scan and digitally replicate actors to give them a more natural feel.
While these newer technologies can bring more realism and creativity into games, the backbone of these works is the artists themselves. Studios often have dozens of digital artists, programmers and animation experts who add an extra level of detail and authenticity to their projects. Although techniques like motion matching use AI to create portions of the animations, in reality, it’s the artists and animators who adjust and polish the effects you see on screen. In this regard, The Game Awards are an excellent way of recognizing and celebrating creators.
Looking to the future, it seems that the worlds of Hollywood and gaming will grow closer. Not only do more games feature faces from television and movies, but they are also being adapted into them, such as The Last of Us and Uncharted. As for consumers, the growing change gives them more unique and enjoyable experiences than ever before.